viernes, 10 de junio de 2016

MercatorNet: An argument for free speech and civility

MercatorNet: An argument for free speech and civility

An argument for free speech and civility

Australians could soon vote in a plebiscite on gay marriage. Meanwhile, they have another choice to make...
Darren Middleton | Jun 10 2016 | comment 1 

Flickr: Newtown Grafitti

If the Coalition maintains government after the next election, Australians will head to the polls shortly after to vote on whether we should change the Marriage Act to include homosexual unions. If you’re into manufactured rage, infantile insults and poor parodies of Chicken Little, stock up on the popcorn – it’ll be like Christmas come early. But for me, I despair at the general unwillingness to reason and discuss without abuse.
There appears to be an intellectual laziness that prefers the low hanging fruits of insult and derision over a respectful and robust debate. Admittedly in any such a debate I would be the classic villain - picture Tony Abbott at Penny Wong’s wedding or a vegan activist at an Australia Day BBQ. I’m a conservative minister with a wife, seven kids and an Aussie Bulldog. I believe all sex outside of marriage is wrong, and I am wholly opposed to redefining the Marriage Act. And if that isn’t bad enough, I’m a Melbourne Storm and Collingwood supporter. Enough said.
Nonetheless, here is my appeal in the words of poet John Milton - ‘let truth and falsehood grapple’. There are individuals and groups on both sides who cannot see far enough past their own positions to realise there is more at stake than just ‘winning the fight’. As our nation heads into one of the largest public debates of our time, we should let opposing arguments wield whatever persuasive power they might possess to convince one way or the other. If either side truly believes they are right, then their arguments stand or fall on their merits without resorting to unhelpful scare campaigns and personal attacks.
From lazy insults about the Gay Gestapo and malicious allusions concerning paedophilia to manufactured outrage about homophobic statements or beliefs, there is plenty of guilt to go around. But at some point after the vote, we’ll need to live and work together again. Our kids will have play dates, we’ll attend the same rugby games, see the same doctor and maybe even live in the same neighbourhood. All the more reason to ensure we value both free speech and civility because disagreement is inevitable in a pluralistic society, yet we must live well with one another.
I realise that in my desire to see free speech and civility I have assumed their value without establishing it. More than that, the two are not of equal value, free speech is indispensable whereas civility is only preferable – however, democracy without civility runs the danger of tyranny. As Samuel Johnson said, “…once the forms of civility are violated, there remains little hope of return to kindness or decency.”  It’s an important point to make because there are some who assume the institution of marriage is merely a socially subjective construct which can become anything one likes. It is not surprising if you take that position, then supporting homosexual marriage seems so obvious it is difficult to imagine why anyone might oppose it unless they were a bigot.
However, there are also those who believe very strongly that the institution of marriage is a definitive institution with a raison d’etre. It exists to bring together a man and a woman in a biological, social and legal covenant, with a purpose to provide for and protect any children they may have. Bertrand Russel (not normally quoted by Presbyterian Ministers approvingly) explained this when he said, “…it is through children alone that sexual relations become important to society and worthy to be taken cognizance of by a legal institution.” To someone like me, the traditional, natural and legal definition is not only reasonable but honourable. There is nothing remotely homophobic about this meaning of marriage, but it is incompatible with homosexual unions.
So the nation has another choice to make concerning the plebiscite, but it has nothing to do with how we vote, and everything to do with who we are as a nation. And while the plebiscite is an important once in a lifetime debate with major social implications, the way we debate is also important, because that too speaks of our values. So ‘let truth and falsehood grapple’ and let it be done with civility.
Darren Middleton is a Teaching Elder at the North Geelong Presbyterian Church in Victoria, Australia. 

We have a varied menu for your weekend reading. Zac Alstin has conducted a study based on interviews with his three-year-old-son and a 15-year-old beagle, which definitively clarifies the question, Why are humans more important than animals?
Christine Alexander, an emeritus professor of English at the University of New South Wales and an expert on Charlotte Bronte (whose birth 200 years ago is being celebrated this year) answers some questions I sent her about the author of the ever-popular novel, Jane Eyre.
Angela McKay Knobel beautifully explains how Aristotle’s ideas about friendship in a certain way validate the “soulmate” view of marriage.
Darren Middleton, a Presbyterian minister in Australia, makes a very necessary plea for civility in the same-sex marriage debate that country is still having – a mark, I would say, of the health of that country’s democracy compared with others that have already rushed the concept into law.
Mary Cooney suggests how parents can use the summer months to train their kids to do their chores well – and keep the house liveable.
And you, dear reader, are invited to ransack your memory for crime and thriller novels that the rest of us might enjoy during the holidays – or any time. So far we have a couple of dozen suggestions but would like some more. Here’s the page: Whodunnits: readers’ choice of beach books

Carolyn Moynihan
Deputy Editor,

Why are humans more important than animals?
Zac Alstin | FEATURES | 10 June 2016
The value we bestow on other life forms is fundamentally a human trait.
Happy birthday, Charlotte! Celebrating the creator of Jane Eyre
Christine Alexander | FEATURES | 10 June 2016
200 years since the birth of Charlotte Bronte her heroine’s fame is undiminished.
Summer chore boot camp
Mary Cooney | FAMILY EDGE | 10 June 2016
With summer coming, parents can expect to have messier homes.
An argument for free speech and civility
Darren Middleton | CONJUGALITY | 10 June 2016
Australians could soon vote in a plebiscite on gay marriage. Meanwhile, they have another choice to make...
To feel myself beloved on the earth
Angela McKay Knobel | FEATURES | 10 June 2016
Aristotle, true friendship, and the 'Soulmate' view of marriage.
Prepare for another Clinton Presidency
Leslie Loftus | FEATURES | 10 June 2016
Democrat consolidation will enable full, negative media attention on Trump and dissolve his poll lead.
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MercatorNet: An argument for free speech and civility

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